San Diego Comic-Con 2010 Yoshitaka Amano
by Carlo Santos,
Legendary artist Yoshitaka Amano took the stage on Sunday with movie director and writer Mink to discuss their recently-released graphic novel, Shinjuku, as well to answer questions about Amano's illustrious career. The panel began with some brief comments from the creators, with Amano describing Shinjuku as a work that was very close to him, and Mink explaining how he had originally wanted Amano to simply provide some designs, but was completely bowled over when Amano offered to illustrate the entire book.
From there, the panel was turned over the audience for a round of questions. Amano was asked about previous Western collaborations, and said that Shinjuku was his third such work, the previous ones being The Dream Hunters with Neil Gaiman and Elektra and Wolverine: The Redeemer with Greg Rucka. Amano is also open to future collaborations and would like to "absorb the world's new ideas" as he broadens his horizons.
On the animation front, Amano has been working for about a year on Zan, in collaboration with Dark Horse. Another attendee asked about the possibility of a new Vampire Hunter D anime and how Amano would want to be involved in that project, but there are no plans as of yet and Amano would prefer to think about his level of involvement only once he is approached to work on it. He also mentioned tangentially that if Shinjuku were to be adapted to film, the striking visual style would surely require big-budget effects.
There were also questions about Amano's art in general. A few years ago there was an exhibition of his art in Los Angeles, and he was asked if there would be future plans to run exhibitions elsewhere in the US. Although there are some Amano exhibits currently running in Brussels and Monaco, he said that gallery showings are something that he approaches passively, and would prefer to wait for a call asking to show his work—possibly in New York or again in Los Angeles.
A fellow artist who had been inspired by Amano's work in her childhood asked where he got his own inspiration, and Amano said that it often comes from real-world observations. Whether going out for walks, or simply looking at other artists' work (like at Comic-Con, for example), he often finds a way to draw something fanastical from mundane, real-world sights. "It comes down to action," he explained—an image that has action to it, and will move one's heart.
The uniqueness of Amano's visual style was also brought up, although the artist himself does not consider it "unique." To him, it comes naturally, and to ask why it is unique is like asking, "What's unique about your smile?" Although he started out as a work-for-hire artist, he said that it was at the age of about 25 or 26 that he became comfortable with his style and chose to strike out his own path.
Another attendee asked where he could buy originals of Amano's work, and while such items sometimes go on sale on Amano's website, they tend to be sporadic—"almost like online auctions," he said. Still, he would like to expand the site in the future and make such purchases more accessible.
Among other aspects of Amano's career, there is also the time he spent with the anime studio Tatsunoko, working on classic series such as Gatchaman and Casshern. Amano was asked about his memories of working with Tatsunoko founder Tatsuo Yoshida, to which he jokingly replied, "That's like asking what memories you have of your manager at work." Still, Amano found Yoshida to be a very fair person, who would freely compliment his artists on the quality of their work. He was also asked about his favorite Tatsunoko character, to which Amano said that Casshern was his all-time favorite.
The Q&A session ended with a couple of light-hearted questions: firstly, about Amano's recommendation for places to visit in Japan—he suggested Kyoto, a place where even he feels like a foreigner when he visits. The last question was about the possibility of designing a tattoo, which prompted lots of laughter; Amano said that it was the first time anyone had asked him about something like that. (He did say that there was a rumor of an FBI agent with a tattoo of Amano's take on Sandman on his back.) Tattoos are something that Amano is not entirely sure about—"Should I take a Western or Japanese approach?"—and he recalled an amusing anecdote of someone who mistakenly got a tattoo of the Japanese kanji for "kitchen."
Finally, the audience was treated to an brief live-drawing session where Amano made four sketches that would be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: firstly, the Comic-Con logo, followed by characters from Shinjuku, Gatchaman, and of course Final Fantasy (a moogle).